Part of choosing a comfortable mattress is determining the best firmness. A firm bed provides a sturdy surface for sleepers and keeps them from sinking into your bed. However, a firm bed may not be a good option for all sleepers. Some people may need a softer mattress to conform to their bodies.
Choosing the incorrect firmness level for your body type and sleeping position makes your mattress feel uncomfortable. Additionally, it could cause you to lose hours of sleep. In this article, we will compare firm and soft mattresses so you can find the perfect fit.
What’s a Firm Mattress?
The firmness is measured on a scale from 1-10, with 1 being soft and 10 being extra- firm. Firm mattresses are between 7 and 9 on the firmness scale. These beds provide the most support out of all available mattress options due to their sturdy feel. A firm bed is usually thinner than softer beds, measuring around 10 to 12 inches thick, with comfort layers 1 to 2 inches thick.
Firm beds do not compress as much as soft mattresses. This can be a problem for lighter sleepers who choose firm beds since these beds do not offer much sinkage. Additionally, firm mattresses provide your mattress with good edge support. With better edge support, sleepers can lie on their beds without worrying about sagging or sinkage.
Benefits of a Firm Mattress
One of the benefits of sleeping on firm mattresses is that they distribute your body weight evenly across your sleeping surface while providing good pressure relief. This keeps your back from sinking too far into your bed and allows you to take in more oxygen while you’re sleeping.
A firm mattress also provides more pushback, keeping the natural curves of your spine in alignment. Sleeping on a firm bed may also help improve your circulation. On a firm surface, your body can withstand the pressure of the bed, reducing the strain on your muscles, veins, and arteries, resulting in better blood flow.
Who Are Firm Mattresses Best For?
Choosing a firm bed might not be the best option for all sleepers. Below, we’ll outline sleepers who are best suited for firm beds.
Plus-size individuals (over 230 pounds)will feel most comfortable on a firm mattress. Soft mattresses feel plush to the touch and sink beneath the sleeper’s bodies. If you are a plus-size sleeper, you’ll want to choose a firmer mattress to prevent sleeping disturbances.
Back Sleepers and Stomach Sleeper
A firm bed is also an excellent choice for back sleepers and stomach sleepers. If you are a stomach sleeper, you are more likely to experience back pain. We do not recommend sleeping in this position, but a firm bed will allow you to sleep comfortably.
On a softer bed, your pelvis is likely to sink into the mattress, arching your back and leading to strain in your lumbar region. Back sleepers are also better suited for firm beds. A firm bed will provide your neck and back with better support and keep your spine in a neutral position.
Firm beds sleep a lot cooler than softer mattresses. When you lie on a soft mattress, the plush layers tend to trap body heat, causing sleepers to feel a bit sweaty. Since firm mattresses have thin comfort layers, this allows air to circulate throughout the mattress.
Disadvantages of a Firm Mattress
Like we mentioned above, firm beds may not be the best choice for all sleepers. Firm beds may aggravate pre-existing conditions, like arthritis, joint, or scoliosis pain. Individuals with these conditions need a mattress to contour to their curves for better pressure point relief. So, it’s better to turn to a softer bed.
Side sleepers may feel uncomfortable lying on a firm mattress. These beds do not provide enough cushioning for the shoulder. Additionally, lightweight individuals may not experience enough sinkage on firm beds, which could cause muscle tension or spinal misalignment.
What’s a Soft Mattress?
A softer mattress is usually best for those experiencing muscle pain—these soft mattresses rate between 2 and 4 on the firmness scale. Soft mattresses compress quickly when pressure is applied, and most sleepers experience some level of sinkage.
What’s fantastic about soft mattresses is they have thick comfort layers, providing a plush sleeping surface for individuals with joint pain. Typically, the comfort layers are made from soft materials like latex and memory foam. Overall, softer mattresses tend to be about 12-14 inches thick, with comfort layers 2 to 4 inches thick.
Benefits of a Soft Mattress
Purchasing a soft bed is an excellent idea if you are an individual with arthritis and joint pain. The plush comfort layers help reduce tension on pressure points and offer cushioning for sensitive areas of the body.
They tend to have more comfort layers like memory foam, latex, and soft mattress covers, like a pillow top. A softer bed also offers a warm and cozy sleeping surface for a good night’s sleep.
Who Are Soft Mattresses Best For?
Soft mattresses may be a good choice for side sleepers and light individuals. Below, we’ll offer some insights on who should buy a softer mattress.
Side sleepers need a plush sleeping surface to ease tension on the neck and shoulders. A soft bed provides extra cushioning for sensitive body parts, reducing muscle tension and joint pain. When side sleepers lie on firm beds, they may have a hard time getting comfortable. Your spine may bow upwards and create an unnatural position for your spine, causing back pain.
Lighter individuals will experience more compression from a plush bed. A mattress with firmer support may feel too hard for a light sleeper and will not feel comfy. Softer beds are more responsive and provide better contouring when placed under less pressure.
Individuals With Pre-Existing Conditions
If a firm bed is causing lower back pain or discomfort, it may be better to choose a softer bed. Sometimes, the sturdiness of firm mattresses can cause pressure to build up in your hips, shoulders, and lower back. Soft beds may help ease and provide more support, improving your quality of sleep.
Disadvantages of a Soft Mattress
The downside of purchasing a soft mattress is that they are prone to sinking and sagging. In addition, these beds will not support the body weight of plus-size sleepers or maintain your mattress quality.
Soft mattresses are not a good choice for back and stomach sleepers because they compress too much. These sleepers will feel like they are stuck in their beds, resulting in poor sleep.
Soft mattresses are not as long-lasting as firm mattresses. A quality mattress should last at least 7 to 10 years, but a soft mattress may only offer a couple of years of use. Not to mention, the plush surface of these beds can create a warm sleeping surface, leaving sleepers feeling sweaty.
For some sleepers, neither a soft bed nor a firm mattress is the key to comfort. Medium mattresses are popular because, as middle-of-the-road mattresses, they can feel reasonably comfortable to most sleeping styles.
Soft mattresses are not the best for all sleepers. Heavier sleepers will more than likely sink too far into their mattresses, so it might be better to turn to a firm bed.
Though we recommend firm beds for back and stomach sleepers, you’ll also want to keep in mind what feels best to you. Some manufacturers may offer other firmness options like extra-firm or medium-firm, which could be a better fit. Overall, choosing the best mattress will come down to your personal preference.
It’s a great idea to check if your mattress manufacturer offers a sleep trial. This way, you’ll have adequate time to adjust to your bed. Additionally, if you decide your mattress is not the right fit, you can return it and try a new bed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mattress firmness and support are not the same things. The firmness level of your mattress refers to the immediate feeling you experience when first lying down. Mattress support refers to how well your bed keeps your spine in alignment.
Some mattresses vary in firmness levels. Memory foam and latex mattresses usually offer a variety of firmness options to cater to all sleeping styles. However, it may be harder to find a soft innerspring bed.
Most innerspring beds provide a firm feel for sleepers. If you want a soft and bouncy mattress, consider a hybrid bed. These mattresses have soft comfort layers that lie on top of a spring layer.
Waking up with back, neck, or shoulder pain may be a sign your mattress is too firm. Though firm beds provide a sturdy sleeping surface, they should also offer a bit of cushioning. In addition, your bed should offer a bit of contouring. If your mattress does not contour to your body, it will probably result in discomfort.
Softer mattresses tend to be a better choice for side sleepers. Side sleepers put immense pressure on their necks and shoulders, so they need a bed with more cushioning. A softer bed will help relieve tension on pressure points for more comfortable sleep.
An extra firm mattress can be helpful for back pain sufferers. These beds allow the body to remain level and keep the spine in alignment. When your spine is improperly aligned, it can lead to back pain.